Animal Agriculture Alliance 2016 Stakeholders Summit explores new ways to bridge the communication gap about animal agriculture

Speakers discuss how to earn trust, engage with the media and share agriculture’s story


May 6, 2016 – “People don’t seem to understand the food system and they are getting their information from everyone but farmers,” said Yvette D’Entremont, blogger and science advocate also known as the “Sci Babe.”

D’Entremont encouraged the attendees to bridge the gap by reminding consumers that farmers are also consumers, show photos when possible because “seeing is believing and connecting with people is essential,” and lastly, incorporate humor in things you want people to read.

“Trust is the most important thing,” said Jay Byrne, CEO of V-Fluence as he discussed how to get agriculture’s story heard in the media. The key to being heard is to be clear and concise, avoiding negative language and convey to people that they have choices, Byrne said.

On a panel about engaging consumers, Phil Keiser, president and CEO of Culver’s and Leah McGrath, RD, LDN, corporate dietitian at Ingles Markets joined Jenny Schweigert, executive director of the AgChat Foundation.

“It is important to maintain a connection to agriculture. We can’t do business without agriculture,” said Keiser. Culver’s supports The National FFA Organization and encourages their customers to support FFA members and the future of agriculture by giving all customers who donate one dollar to the FFA organization a free custard cone. “We understand the pride in the blue jacket,” he said.

Keiser encouraged the audience to not only reach out to consumers about animal agriculture, but executives as well because he hears “more from the activists than the farmers.”

McGrath expressed the importance of being active on social media to share farmers’ stories and said, “what consumers really want to know is if their food is safe and where it comes from.” One way McGrath connects consumers with farmers is to bring farmers into the grocery stores to talk with people about how they raise and produce food.

Schweigert tasked the audience to get involved on the legislative level, be proactive rather than reactive and focus on a target audience within the “moveable middle.” While all people involved in animal agriculture should tell their story, it is important to “find what best fits into your farm style and lifestyle.”

The next group of panelists, Leah Dorman, DVM, director of food integrity and consumer engagement at Phibro Animal Health, Richard Raymond, MD, food safety and public health consultant and former undersecretary for food safety at the USDA and Christopher Doering, reporter with USA Today, discussed the how to change the narrative surrounding antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

“I took an oath to prevent and treat animal suffering,” said Dorman. “Treating a sick animal is absolutely the right thing to do.”

Dorman is not only a veterinarian, but also a mom and motivated the audience to “lead with values and gain trust, then that will give you permission to share the science.”

Raymond took the stage next and emphasized “there is very little crossover between antibiotics used in both animals and humans,” as he tackled the myth claiming that 80 percent of antibiotics are used in animal agriculture. He said the real number should be 18 percent because 82 percent of antibiotics used in animal agriculture are never or very rarely used in human medicine.

Doering said the announcements from restaurants and retailers to decrease antibiotic may be losing their impact as they become more frequent and the interest has shifted to how the companies will follow through on their commitments.

“The changing communication landscape gives the opportunity for agriculture to be up front and more transparent,” said Doering. “Being transparent makes journalists’ jobs easier to share your side of the story.”

The final panel of the day featured the top three individual winners from the College Aggies Online program guided by Elizabeth Stulberg, PhD, policy analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology.

The panelists included:

  • Jessica Miller, graduate student studying animal science at Oklahoma State University
  • Jennifer Weinberg, senior studying political communications at George Washington University
  • Heather Abeita, junior studying agricultural biology at New Mexico State University

Each panelist shared their thoughts on why agriculture is a great career choice for the next generation and how to get people interested in the future of animal agriculture.

Miller, first place individual winner, said the key to getting people back on the farm and becoming a part of agriculture is to always tell our story in a way that will continuously pique young peoples’ interest and take the younger generation to the farm for firsthand experience to learn more about animal agriculture. “People don’t like what they don’t understand. I want to teach about agriculture and spread the word because agriculture is the future.”

The Summit continues today through noon. Follow the social media conversation at #AAA16.

Thank you to all our Summit sponsors: U.S. Poultry & Egg Association, Meatingplace, Farm Journal Media, Watt Global Media, Farm Credit, American Feed Industry Association, National Pork Board, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, Alltech, Zoetis, Diamond V, Charleston|Orwig, National Pork Producers Council, Merck Animal Health, Smithfield, Provimi, Bayer Animal Health, PotashCorp, Seaboard Foods, Iowa Soybean Association, Aviagen, Cattle Empire, United Soybean Board, Elanco Animal Health, Council for Biotechnology Information/GMO Answers, The National Turkey Federation’s 20 by 2020 Project, United Egg Producers, Kemin Industries, American Veal Association, Cobb-Vantress, GNP Company, Agri Beef Co., National Chicken Council, North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, Dairy MAX, Live Oak Bank, Millennium Research Inc., Eggland’s Best and the Food Industry Environmental Network.


 About the Alliance:

The Animal Agriculture Alliance is an industry-united, nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farm and fork. We connect key food industry stakeholders to arm them with responses to emerging issues. We engage food chain influencers and promote consumer choice by helping them better understand modern animal agriculture. We protect by exposing those who threaten our nation’s food security with damaging misinformation.
Find the Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.

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